I spent last Thursday and Friday listening to excellent speakers, experts in their respective fields, sharing the latest research and guidelines to a room packed full of health care professionals passionate about menopause care at the British Menopause Society annual conference in London.
We heard about the importance of holistic care, how important lifestyle can be to our health, about optimum menopause treatments in primary and secondary care and about the importance of hormones in relation to our long term bone, heart and brain health.
So far so good but I also heard how some practices and CCG’s are actively discouraging GPs from prescribing Testosterone to women who need it, of CCG’s who will not allow GP’s to prescribe Utrogestan (micronised progesterone) and of specialist NHS menopause services being closed altogether.
The GP’s that I spoke to are both frustrated and upset at not being able to provide the best care for their patients and those in secondary care are incredulous at the closure of much needed specialist clinics.
I regularly speak to women who are struggling to access the right help and support from their doctors mainly due to a lack of GP education in the menopause but if managers and CCG’s are placing restrictions on what GP’s can prescribe and closing clinics where does that leave women?
Recently I have counselled women who have described themselves as at the end of their tether, on the verge of giving up and despairing. Others tell me that they have given up with their doctors and are now waiting to see a private doctor or gynaecologist. Whilst I am all for choice many of these women are saving up or going in to debt to pay for these appointments as they are so desperate for help.
Menopause will affect every woman, for some the transition will be easier than it will for others but every woman deserves to have access to the right advice and support. There is some excellent care available but it is certainly not available to all and without better GP education and a lifting of restrictions on appropriate treatments it will remain the preserve of those that can afford to seek private treatment or a game of chance as to whether there is a GP in your area who has taken a special interest in menopause.
Surely it is just good old fashioned common sense for every CCG in the country to ensure that the NICE guidelines on menopause are read and implemented in every GP practice in the land and that GP’s have access to all available treatments to be able to offer the optimum treatment for their patient. This would save untold distress for women and countless GP appointments which are wasted when women feel they have no choice but to keep going back again and again in search of help.
Why is it that what seems plainly obvious to me and so many other women and men seems to evade those that have the ability to ensure change? And don’t get me started on endometriosis diagnosis or PMDD or PCOS or the way gynaecological cancer patients are just left to get on with their menopause symptoms or those experiencing vaginal atrophy feel when they are given conflicting and often incorrect advice.
I don’t care who takes the initiative, I don’t care who gets the credit, I care that women are suffering every single day, sometimes all day, every day, sometimes for weeks, months and years on end. I care that relationships suffer, families suffer and that the highest rate of suicide for women is between the ages of 50 and 54 and the average age of menopause is 51.
So please Matt Hancock and all those in the Department of Health, make women’s health a priority, meet with the NHS and the CCGs and the Royal Colleges and rather than just talk actually take some action to prove to the nation that women’s health matters.